Culture Leadership

I believe in organizational leadership based on Alan Wilkins’ Developing Corporate Character, which I have written about here

This is what such leadership looks like:

  1. Honoring the past. 
  2. Developing faith in fairness.
  3. Developing faith in ability.
  4. Painting a shared vision.

Honoring the Past

A leader must first seek to understand the history, sacrifices, and successes of an organization–and its culture–before leading within it or making changes to it. What are the core characteristics or values of the organization? And why do these exist? And how have these values led to past success? These are important first step for a new leader.

Without first seeking to understand the organization’s values that have created success, a leader risks changing the wrong things (or not preserving the right things) and thus unintentionally “killing the goose that lays the golden egg,” as Stephen Covey has written in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

Developing Faith in Fairness

A leader needs to understand what relationships and agreements and tacit understandings already exist within an organization. And that by honoring these things, one is preserving a general sense of faith in fairness. And such faith is motivational to future successes. “You could be next” is a phrase that can spread like wild-fire within an organization, and which can demotivate valued contributors to an organization. There is a saying among football coaches, that “players play fast when they know what to do.” When there is not sense of fairness, or when motivation drops below a threshold, people don’t know how to be successful. And rather than acting fast, they act very slowly or not at all.

When contracts need to change, renegotiations need to occur, not simply be dropped or ignored. And the manner of negotiation? It should be very carefully undertaken in a cooperative manner. (See more on negotiation here.)

Developing Faith in Ability

Motivation from faith in ability, is preserved by a leader when the leader first recognizes the individuals, processes, values, strategies that the organization needs to be successful, and then does everything that is reasonably necessary to get them and to keep them amidst organizational growth and changes.

A unique part of this is a leadership responsibility to let people go if they cannot work effectively in some position or within some team, and cannot develop through training. If such a person is not let go, others in the organization can lose motivation that the organization can/will be as successful as possible. This is particularly true within organizations and teams where there is a high level of interdependencies.

Painting a Shared Vision

Motivation–even inspiration–comes when leaders “catch” others doing what is consistent with a shared mission or vision. And when they communicate about the vision in a way that “paints” a picture of a desired and mutually-beneficial future.

A shared vision may not change in terms of what is written (it probably should NOT change frequently), but its meaning can develop more and more over time, and its implementation can improve over time–further enhancing the meaning of the mission. This needs to be done in such a way that all others can see ways that they can implement it within their own roles, and ideally see sequences of steps that are doable and reasonable over time.